The Cable Industry Has a Strategy

Carl Weinschenk

Players in the telecommunications industry spend their time on games of one-upmanship. The telcos continue improving on ways to squeeze ever faster services from their digital subscriber line (DSL) techniques, cellular and wireless push toward the 5G starting line, and cable operators test their data over cable service interface specification (DOCSIS).

The cable operators have a plan, and it includes more than DOCSIS 3.1. A new, popular player is emerging. In polling among Light Reading’s readership, DOCSIS 3.1, the latest version of the spec, finished second in popularity to Distributed Access Architecture (DAA).

In essence, DAA is cable’s way of keeping up with the virtualization trend:

The result reflects the growing importance of disaggregated functions, as DAA calls for at least partial virtualization of the cable headend by shifting some or all of the data and video processing functions from the headend to the network fiber node.

DAA will work with DOCSIS 3.1, and the converged cable access platform (CCAP), another new technology, to make cable networks far more agile, flexible, and lighter users of power.

CCAP plays a key role in the cable strategy. It was developed to save power and space in crowded headends and hubs by combining video and data equipment in one chassis. This enables power supplies and other overhead elements to be shared. The result is environmentally friendly and economical. Last month, SNL Kagan research said that cable operators in 2015 saw an increase in CCAP shipments. DOCSIS 3.1 shipments increased 41 percent to exceed more than 6 million channels.

In a way, it is easy to track the cable industry: Just watch what Comcast does. FierceCable reported last month that the multiple system operator (MSO) began advanced consumer trials of DOCSIS 3.1 in Atlanta, the first of five cities in which the platform will be deployed this year. The others: Nashville, Chicago, Detroit and Miami.

The cable industry has the advantage of being tightly controlled and, at the upper levels, relatively small. This has enabled it to engineer a plan over the past decade to significantly improve its overall platform at every level: DOCSIS 3.1, DAA and CCAP are all part of that plan. DOCSIS addresses capacity, DAA system architecture, and CCAP equipment economies and energy.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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